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Is Bollywood loosing pan-Indian dominance?
Priyanka Khanna, IANS Sep 5  [ Sun, Sep 5, 2004 ]
  • New Delhi, Sep 5 (IANS): Bollywood seems to be losing its pan-Indian dominance.

    Quite apart from the Kannada film industry's diktat to delay release of films in other languages, Bollywood is also loosing appeal in places where regional cinema is very strong - like Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.

    Trade observers say cinegoers, especially in south India, do not find Mumbai films any better than their regional fare - in terms of content or technique - leading to the market for Mumbai films floundering for almost two years now.

    What is worse, with VCDs and DVDs of Bollywood movies available for the asking anywhere in the country almost as soon as they hit the Mumbai market, people tend to think more than twice about shelling out extra money to watch a Hindi movie, trade analysts say.

    Besides, states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu also tax Hindi films heavily. Hindi film distributors in these states, as also in Kerala, have burnt their fingers over films with huge star casts that have flopped miserably, analysts say.

    Hollywood films dubbed in Hindi have also hit Bollywood adversely and prompted the All-India Film Producers Council to appeal to the government to ban such films.

    The council says foreign films attract larger audiences and eat into the Hindi film market with distribution rights for each territory sold for as cheap as.Rs 1.8 million.

    Separatist movements have also affected Bollywood dearly in states like Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.

    Movie halls and cable operators in insurgency-hit Manipur have stopped telecasting Hindi films after a guerrilla ban. A spate of explosions targeting moviegoers in Assam has led to most cinemas running near empty.

    Even as the Hindi film industry wrestles with this threat to its dominance, one of the highest paid American actresses features in a typical Bollywood-style song-and-dance routine.

    Reese Witherspoon of "Legally Blonde" fame, who charges between $15 million to $18 million for a film, is believed to have scaled this down to feature in India-born Mira Nair's "Vanity Fair" with a dance sequence choreographed by Mumbai's Farah Khan in the period film that released last week.

    This would well mean a new high for the escapist fair churned out by Mumbai-based studios, which that have for long been at the receiving end of ridicule.

    At the same time, the paradoxical outcome of globalisation for Hindi cinema has been the emergence of cinema for niche audiences, which has added to the disconnect between most of India and Bollywood films.

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  • The trend towards films that are not targeted at the masses but cater to a particular segment or sensibility of the domestic and overseas market is taking firm root in Bollywood.

    Thus, films tailor-made for multiplexes and having little or no audience base beyond the metros and select overseas circuits have dominated this year's list of releases.

    The likes of filmmakers Ram Gopal Varma, Karan Johar and a slew of rookies have proven the economic sense of making films for a niche audience - but the downside is that Bollywood has become disconnected from nearly 85 percent of India that resides outside the cities.

    Even veterans like Sooraj Barjatya and Yash Chopra, who made some of the biggest potboiler hits in Bollywood history, are leaning towards films that cater only to urban youth.

    Even stars like Amitabh Bachchan have all but given up wholesome entertainers.

    Social observer Anita Dhandia draws out a parallel when she says: "The winds of globalisation have brought with them a discerning move towards localisation in mass media. This takes a cue from newspapers with their several city-specific editions that have ample space dedicated to international news and gossip, but little mention of happenings in other states of the country."

    Bollywood is fast becoming the toast of London and other cities in Europe.

    While connoisseurs of good cinema have selected National Award winner Rituparno Ghosh's first Hindi film "Raincoat" for screening at this year's London Film Festival, Londoners looking for plain and simple entertainment are desperately seeking Bollywood.

    Stage shows that have become passé in the Americas, Dubai and India are doing roaring business in the former colonial capital. In fact, no one could get enough of megastar Shah Rukh Khan at the concert "Temptation 2004" that was held in Amsterdam last week. Frenzied crowds mobbed "King Khan" and all his shows in Britain and Europe have been long sold out.

    Reports say that in Amsterdam, sores of people camped outside his hotel after the show just to get a glimpse of the superstar.

    Still on the subject of the Khan, the actor who has taken a short sabbatical from films has now decided to lend his weight to a social cause.

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  • He will endorse a campaign for immunisation of children with his production company producing the social awareness films.

    The success of the campaign is a foregone conclusion because no one quite does it like the Khan.